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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Houma, Louisiana » Sugarcane Research » Research » Research Project #425242

Research Project: Genetic Improvement of Sugarcane for Temperate Climates

Location: Sugarcane Research

2014 Annual Report

Objective 1: Develop and release improved sugarcane cultivars and germplasm having a concentration of genes for specific, highly desirable traits, including resistance to yield-limiting insects and diseases. Objective 2: Broaden the genetic base of sugarcane and related genera to improve output-to-input ratios, yield stability, and specific adaption to temperate environments. Sub-objective 2.A. Characterize and broaden the genetic base of Saccharum to support sugarcane cultivar development. Sub-objective 2.B. Develop a predictive assay for cold tolerance in Saccharum. Objective 3: Develop and deploy clone- and trait-specific genetic markers for marker-assisted selection of priority traits to accelerate breeding efforts. Sub-objective 3.A. Develop genus-, species-, or clone-specific DNA markers. Sub-objective 3.B. Develop trait-specific DNA markers through genetic mapping and association studies.

The program’s breeding strategy is to increase the genetic diversity of parental clones through: (1) acquisition and maintenance of germplasm from wild species of Saccharum and related genera; (2) characterization of parents and progeny for traits (cold tolerance, stubbling ability, disease resistance, and sugarcane borer resistance) that will increase the adaptation of sugarcane to Louisiana’s temperate climate; (3) utilization of crossing and molecular marker techniques to produce interspecific and intergeneric hybrids containing new sources of disease and insect resistance and cold tolerance; and (4) recombination of progeny through backcrossing to develop parental material containing a concentration of desirable genes for the commercial breeding program. Screening procedures will be developed to determine relative cold tolerance among clonal material in the basic breeding program. Cultivar development will emphasize increased sugar yield, along with other import traits such as yield components (stalk number, height, and diameter), fiber concentration, rate of maturation, ratooning ability (stand longevity), harvestability (resistance to lodging, stalk erectness, and stalk brittleness), hardiness (winter survival, early spring vigor, and stalk and ratoon freeze tolerance), abiotic stress tolerance (droughts, floods, and heavy clay soils), and resistance to stalk boring insects (sugarcane borer and Mexican rice borer) and diseases (smut, rust, leaf scald, mosaic, yellow leaf virus, and ratoon stunting). Recurrent selection techniques will be utilized to accelerate the rate of genetic improvement for these important traits. In addition, trait-specific markers closely associated with traits such as sucrose accumulation, cold tolerance, and resistance to the sugarcane borer will be developed to assist breeders in eliminating undesirable plants early in the selection process.

Progress Report
The crossing season of fiscal year 2014 conducted at Canal Point, Florida, was one of the most successful crossing seasons since the inception of that facility. Viable seed resulting from crosses made in fiscal year 2014 at Canal Point were approximately 2 million. Of the 2 million seed, approximately 1.3 million seed were made for the commercial program at the Sugarcane Research Unit in Houma, LA. The subsequent stages of the commercial program were equally successful and all represent a significant increase over the previous years. The number of seedlings selected for planting in the first-line trial was 6,238, or just over a 10% selection rate. The number of first-lines moving on into the second-line trial was 1,074, a selection rate of just over 17%. Finally, 87 selections were assigned a permanent variety number in fiscal year 2014. Brown rust is a major concern in the Louisiana sugarcane industry and throughout the world. In the past, the disease has reduced crop yields in the industry by up to 30% and has resulted in the demise of previously high-yielding varieties. Because of a lack of durable resistance, thousands of varieties are dropped yearly. The collection of wild sugarcane that is housed at the Sugarcane Research Unit in Houma, LA, was screened for the presence of the Bru1 marker which is linked to brown rust resistance. This information was incorporated into the crossing program to increase the frequency of this marker and to enhance the likelihood of developing brown rust resistant varieties. The use of the Bru1 marker in making targeted crosses for rust resistance marks the first time that molecular marker assisted selection has been utilized in domestic sugarcane breeding programs. Unique segments of an organism’s genetic code (DNA) can be used to create a molecular fingerprint for that organism. USDA scientists at the Sugarcane Research Unit in Houma, LA, identified molecular fingerprints for sugarcane varieties in the final stages of testing in the breeding program and recorded them in a molecular fingerprint database. In fiscal year 2014, molecular fingerprints were used to verify the identity of parent varieties used in the breeding program, as well as varieties in other experiments. Molecular fingerprinting was also used to determine the variety names of unidentified sugarcane plants.

1. A new variety of sugarcane released by the breeding team at the Sugarcane Research Laboratory, Houma, LA. The Agricultural Research Service of the United States Department of Agriculture (ARS-USDA), the Louisiana Agricultural Experiment Station of the LSU Agricultural Center (LSU AgCenter), and the American Sugar Cane League of the U.S.A., Inc. (ASCL), worked cooperatively to develop a new sugarcane variety for Louisiana sugarcane farmers. A new variety, Ho 07-613, was released for commercial planting in 2014. Ho 07-613 is a product of the cross between HoCP 00-905 and HoCP 96-540 made at the Sugarcane Research Unit in Houma (Ho), LA, in 2002 and selected at Houma in 2004. Results of numerous field tests at research stations and cooperator farms have been compiled and analyzed. In all three crop years (first-year crop and two ratoon crops), Ho 07-613 produces significantly more sugar/ton than HoCP 96-540; the prominent sugarcane variety currently being grown in Louisiana. The variety is resistant or moderately resistant to the diseases of economic importance in Louisiana and is resistant to the major insect pest, the sugarcane borer. The increased production efficiency through releasing improved sugarcane varieties will insure the continued economic sustainability of the Louisiana sugarcane industry.

Review Publications
Zhu, J.R., Zhou, H., Pan, Y.-B., Lu, X. 2014. Genetic variability among the chloroplast genomes of sugarcane (Saccharum spp.) and its wild progenitor species Saccharum spontaneum L. Genetics and Molecular Research. 13(2):3037-3047. DOI: 10.4238/2014.January.24.3.
Luo, J., Pan, Y.-B., Xu, L., Zhang, Y., Zhang, H., Chen, R., Que, Y. 2014. Photosynthetic and canopy characteristics of different varieties at the early elongation stage and their relationships with the cane yield in sugarcane. The Scientific World Journal. 2014:1-9. Article ID 707095. DOI: 10.1155/2014/707095.
Luo, J., Pan, Y.-B., Xu, L., Zhang, H., Yuan, Z., Deng, Z., Chen, R., Que, Y. 2014. Cultivar evaluation and essential test locations identification for sugarcane breeding in China. The Scientific World Journal. 2014:1-10. Article ID 302753. DOI: 10.1155/2014/302753.
Que, Y., Pan, Y.-B., Lu, Y., Yang, C., Yang, Y., Huang, N., Xu, L. 2014. Genetic analysis of diversity within a Chinese local sugarcane germplasm based on start codon targeted polymorphism. BioMed Research International. 2014:1-10. Article ID 468375. DOI: 10.1155/2014/468375.
Boue, S.M., Shih, B.Y., Burow, M., Eggleston, G., Lingle, S.E., Pan, Y., Daigle, K.W., Bhatnagar, D. 2013. Postharvest accumulation of resveratrol and piceatannol in sugarcane with enhanced antioxidant activity. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 61:8412-8419.
Hale, A.L., Viator, R.P., Veremis, J.C. 2014. Identification of freeze tolerant Saccharum spontaneum accessions through a pot-based study for use in sugarcane germplasm enhancement for adaptation to temperate climates. Biomass and Bioenergy. 61:53-57. DOI: 10.1016/j.biombioe.2013.11.015.
Jackson, P., Hale, A.L., Bonnett, G., Lakshamanan, P. 2014. Sugarcane. In: Pratap, A., and Kumar, J.. Alien Gene Transfer in Crop Plants, Volume 2. Achievements and Impacts. New York: Springer. p. 317-345.
Parco, A.S., Avellaneda, M.C., Hale, A.L., Hoy, J.W., Kimbeng, C.A., Pontif, M.J., Gravois, K.A., Baisakh, N. 2014. Frequency and distribution of the brown rust resistance gene Bru1 and implications for the Louisiana sugarcane breeding programme. Plant Breeding. 133:654-659. doi:10.1111/pbr.12186.
Richard Jr, E.P., Anderson, W.F. 2014. Sugarcane, energy cane and napiergrass. In: D.L. Karlen (ed.) Cellulosic energy cropping systems, Wiley, New Delhi, India. p. 91-108.
Khan, N.A., Bedre, R., Parco, A., Bernaola, L., Hale, A.L., Kimbeng, C., Pontif, M., Baisakh, N. 2013. Identification of cold-responsive genes in energycane for their use in genetic diversity analysis and future functional marker development. Plant Science. 211:122-131.